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Examples to prepare your company for a crisis

By Marjorie Comer

20 crises Axia Public Relations managed for clients that your company needs to plan for

financial crisisIn today’s day and age, it’s a matter of when, not if, a crisis will happen to your company. When you’re unprepared for a crisis, you’re jeopardizing your company, your employees, your shareholders, your reputation, and your future.

Research shows that for every $1 spent on crisis planning, you’ll save $7 during an actual crisis.


Here are 20 crises that Axia Public Relations has helped its clients manage. These situations aren’t hypothetical – all are real events that occurred. To help you and your company better prepare for a crisis, use these instances as hypothetical situations to help your team create a crisis communication plan and prepare for future crises.

  1. Employee suicide
    After a round of layoffs, an employee of our client’s subsidiary, who was suffering from depression, went home from work and committed murder-suicide. Our client asked us to be the subsidiary’s spokesperson after we recommended that the parent company’s go-to spokesperson not speak and associate the publicly traded parent company. Involving the parent company would add insult to injury by damaging its image and potentially lowering stock prices.
  1. On-premise active shooter
    The branch of an construction company had an active shooter at its office. In the midst of the scene, the firm called our offices and asked us to turn on CNN. The station was live, showing a man running around the firm’s office with a gun. It was necessary for us to manage the situation immediately. The branch needed to handle the media as well as external situations.
  1. Death threats
    A little-known secret is that CEOs at most publicly traded companies receive death threats regularly. These threats typically stem from disgruntled stakeholders and employees. We worked with one of our publicly traded clients to prepare a message for its employees, informing them of security measures after an incident when someone who claimed to have an appointment with the CEO was able to enter the office armed with weapons.
  1. Hostage situation
    When a hostage situation occurs, your company needs a plan for the media, the families, and even the authorities. We worked with a company that had a disgruntled individual take people hostage in hopes of leveraging the company’s relationship with a third party.
  1. Hostile takeover
    A hostile takeover is when one company acquires another company without its approval or despite the wishes of the target company. We worked with a restaurant whose original owner mismanaged funds and then became upset when the co-owner worked to take control of the company to save it. It turned into a hostile takeover when the original owner raised a campaign against the company he still owned.
  1. Corporate headquarter relocation
    Announcing the moving of a company’s headquarters can cause an internal crisis with employees as they figure out the timeline of the move, overall logistics, and if they need to find a new local job. It can also cause an external crisis within the local community where employees are contributing to the economy.
  1. Reverse acquisition
    We’ve worked with national publicly traded companies where the reverse acquisition crisis occurred. One company purchased a major competitor, and simultaneously, the acquiring company fired its existing executive and division leadership and allowed the newly acquired company’s executives to take over as the leadership of the merged companies.
  1. Corporate espionage
    A tech client of ours was in hot water when one of its regional leaders and a newly hired employee were caught at the new employee’s former office breaking and entering and stealing company records and customer contracts. We helped the company with external communications during the investigation, lawsuit, settlement, and public apology.

  2. Negative online reviews
    While online reviews have the potential to help your company, more and more often, online reviews are causing company crises. Negative online reviews can impact the future of your business – with customers, employees, and prospective clients.

  3. Product recall
    Many companies have products that are in violation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Helping a company alert the media and the public is critical in this type of crisis. There can be significant consequences for a company – and its customers – if it doesn’t handle recalls in an appropriate and timely manner.

  4. Negative product reviews
    One negative review of a particular product can quickly spiral into a crisis. Being prepared for negative feedback is key. While they’re similar to negative online reviews, negative product reviews deal with specific products your company offers to consumers or your clients.
  1. Reputation management
    An online reputation management issue means there are websites unaffiliated with your company that contain negative content about your company. This can become a crisis when the negative links outrank positive ones – including your homepage – in search results.

  2. Viral social media rants
    Social media is a great way to share news about your company; however, social media can also create a crisis when someone posts a negative comment about your company, an employee, or a product. One rant can activate the mob mentality of social media, thus leading to a crisis that you can’t overcome.  

  3. Litigation
    It’s important to recognize that disputes and disagreements happen – with former employees, customers, during a merger, and more. Managing your brand and reputation in the court of public opinion is critical during these times.

  4. Child sexual abuse
    When child sexual abuse and child pornography allegations hit a company, it can take the national spotlight. Preparing for this is tough because it’s a difficult subject to talk about. We’ve partnered with VOICE Today to raise awareness about the child sexual abuse crisis.

  5. CEO shot
    The leader of a prominent company was shot in an armed robbery, and it was big news. We worked with the client to control the message and keep the news from Wall Street as well as protecting the CEO’s family from the media by acting as their spokesperson.  

  6. Noose in break room
    A manufacturing company had a client visit its warehouse. When the client unexpectedly entered the employees’ break room, he found a noose on display. This offensive act turned into a crisis, as the company feared the impact to its reputation and the industry’s reputation. The company sought our help in communicating with the parties involved to minimize the damage.

  7. Cyberattack
    From global Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, data breaches happen every day. As we continue to live in a technology-driven world, it’s important to have a crisis plan in place when your company has a data breach.
  1. FBI raid
    The FBI raided the Chicago subsidiary of a national, publicly traded company in the middle of a workday because it believed a person of interest worked there. The person no longer worked for the subsidiary, and the FBI was able to verify that all illegal activities took place outside of work. We worked with the company to manage the embarrassment of having an FBI raid.

  2. Health issues
    If your CEO or other leading executive has a health crisis, it’s important to have a plan in place. We’ve worked with clients who first had to make the announcement about a health crisis to their employees and board members, and then to their own client base. You shouldn’t take an announcement like this lightly because it impacts a company’s sales, employment, and the future of the company.

A crisis will happen whether your company prepares or not. Get in front of it by using these scenarios to role-play internally and with your PR firm. Continue to prepare by downloading Axia Public Relations’ complimentary e-book “Managing Public Relations in a Crisis” today.

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marjorie-newClients love Marjorie’s work ethic, speed and diligence. She has worked with Axia Public Relations since October 2011. Marjorie graduated from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and loves to cheer for her hometown Kansas City Royals. Learn more about Marjorie.


Featured image credit: 123rf.com 

Topics: crisis communications, earned media

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